Those of you who know me well, would know that I am passionate about building my experience and finesse as a facilitator.
I’m absolutely comfortable facilitating learning or helping participants at workshops to consolidate learning. I’ve been practicing for some years now and feel quite confident that I am fairly competent at it. I’ve very much tried not to shy away from ANY opportunity to practise and I’ve been immensely lucky that many have been so generous with their trust and confidence in me.
What I’ve been very new at, in terms of facilitation, is in the area of facilitating large group conversations around, and with the objective, of improving performance, team effectiveness and culture building. In Organisation Development (OD) type conversations and interventions, I have very little experience.
What I had quickly learnt during a recent stint in OD, was that I found it immensely difficult and challenging work. I found that every time I began a journey working towards an OD intervention with a particular team or organisation, that I very quickly got ‘sucked into’ the issues. For example, when interviewing staff who are demoralised, I tend to start mirroring their feelings. I start feeling demoralised too. If they share their anxiety, it’s as if I adopt their anxiety as my own. And i’m not even part of the organisation but yet, it becomes my own problems. Enough, that it would affect my sleep.
And in my reflections with my own teams, I learnt that I was hyper sensitive to body language, voice tonation of the people I worked with. I read people very quickly, I get a sense of the energies in the room, the tensions between people and it affects me to a large extent. It turns out, I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)
According to Dr. Aron’s definition, the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.
So I get overwhelmed…very easily (Those of you who have gone partying with me know this very well. It is the answer to why Iva is behaving like she’s drunk/high, when she hasn’t had a drop of alcohol to drink). The OD work I’ve done can be very exhausting, and taxing in a very personal way.
So, when I completed my posting/secondment to my previous organisation, I had kinda sworn to myself, no more facilitating OD type interventions. I wanted to stay in my happy-place. I didn’t want to get sucked into any more downward spirals.
But when I was approached to do this OD assignment that I completed today. I found that, despite my vow to myself just some months ago, I felt compelled to accept it. It was for an organisation that I cared for very deeply. This was about a family I have grown to love and appreciate very much. It was very much, very very much, personal.
A friend who shared with me about HSPs and told me to read the book about it, shared with me that people like me may have what it takes to be really good OD practitioners. Because very often, we look at organisational issues and challenges and tackle it with our heads. But really good OD practitioners are able to connect, emotionally too. They also use the power of their hearts, to move teams, to move organisations and to create…something. I somehow, never quite believed him.
He explained that what people like me needed to learn, was how to take care of myself. To protect my inner-self. So that I would be able to distance the work that I do with from my own personal life. That, surely, I am nowhere close to mastering.
Reflecting on what we had achieved today, which to some may not have been astoundingly much, but to us, great nonetheless, I did not regret my decision to accept this particular OD assignment.
Although I wasn’t the lead facilitator, it sure felt great, to be connected to a mission, a purpose and a bunch of people I care very much for. It felt wonderful to feel in service and in support of what they hoped to achieve.
And it didn’t feel emotionally taxing at all, although I did well up in tears twice today. Because I was so open to the experience, I wanted to embrace the feelings, downwards or upwards, fully. I wanted to be fully open. And I was prepared to being vulnerable about how important this day was to me. And how I had hoped it was just as important to them. I had a personal stake in this.
My experience today made me reassess the promise I had made to myself to never facilitate any more OD interventions. It’s planted a belief that I should make ONE exception. I should make an exceptions for organisations, teams that I truly believe in and care for. For this is really meaningful work.
And don’t we all aspire to be part of a little bit of GREATness!